John Franklin Bobbitt.

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them to be looked down upon by the native population; and
their language also. Children growing up within an Ameri-
can atmosphere unconsciously adopt the American attitude
toward their ignorant parents. They lose respect for their
parents and for the parental tongue. They drift prematurely
away from the parental influences. This family disintegra-
tion is often highly disastrous to the children; and destruc-
tive of cherished parental hopes.

The disintegration is due to many factors. But language
being our major social bond, one of them certainly is the
lack of a common language. Children decline to use a
despised language; and the parents are not sufficiently
plastic to take on that of their children. A partial allevia-
tion could be produced by bringing the children to respect
the parental tongue. This could best be accomplished by
having the children read the stimulating literature of that
tongue. While the basic language of all American schools
should be English, in an Italian community the children
might well be brought also to read the interesting literature
of Italy; in a Polish community, that of Poland; in a Hun-
garian community, the literature of Hungary. The children
will come to respect the language which the school respects
and which the literature reveals to them as a high and hon-
orable tongue.

If education here will look accurately to the social results
to be aimed at and include nothing not demanded by such
results, the task ought not to be a difficult one, nor to con-
sume any large amount of time. A reading knowledge is
all that the school need concern itself with. The children
will get their speaking practice in their homes. The latter
may not be grammatically accurate. But training must
always be related to purposes. In this case the children are
to be brought to respect the language of their parents. If,
therefore, the parents speak a rather ignorant type of the


language, the less the attention of the children is called to
this, the better for all concerned. This will eliminate the
necessity of teaching the grammar, composition, and the
other things that require time.

The schools will only take care of the reading. They
need an abundance of the most fascinating stories obtain-
able in the language; and so well graded that the gradient
is imperceptible. As children master the mechanics of read-
ing English, it will be easy to master the mechanics of read-
ing their parental tongue. There need not be much class-
work only enough to introduce the social motives and
stimulations. Their textbooks and supplementary reading
books in history, geography, literature, etc., might occasion-
ally be in part in their parental language.

All of the other purposes of the training of these children
are to be kept in mind at the same time so that this one
shall not be exaggerated and receive an undue proportion
of time or energy. Harmonious family life is but one end
of many for which these children are to be trained. The
reason disappears in the second generation. Educational
inertia can then be no justification for retention of the lan-

Foreign languages and leisure occupations

All admit that the reading of good literature is a healthy
and desirable leisure occupation. This literature exists in
a few ancient and in several modern languages. It is gen-
erally accepted that except for those forms of poetry where
the effects are so largely dependent upon rhythm and other
sensuous elements, a translation properly done is practi-
cally as good as the original. It maybe better. But among
the essences of leisure occupations are variety, novelty,
and freshness of experience. Stale experiences do not
satisfy. In music, for example, one likes to hear selections


produced through different media: orchestra, band, piano,
organ, voice, chorus, opera, etc. This employment of dif-
ferent media greatly widens and diversifies the musical ex-
periences and increases the sum total of enjoyment. In
literature likewise, one enjoys different media. Literature
in the foreign tongue often brings a tingling of new and
eager interests that is less evident when the same litera-
ture is received through the routine grooves of vernacular

This appears to be a higher or less sensuous form of
spiritual recreation than music. It cannot then represent
a less justifiable type of leisure occupation. It is not im-
probable that for some, who can really use it as a satisfying
leisure occupation, it is even more justifiable and more
fruitful. The chief question that arises is, Is it not too high
and rarefied a type of recreation for people in general?
Clearly it can be justifiable only in the case of those in
whom it will actually function as a leisure occupation.
This end cannot in any degree justify forcing the language
upon the unwilling. The literature probably can have
humanizing effectiveness, can expand and enrich the per-
sonality, only when it is read with fully aroused emotional
reverberations. If it is read as a prescribed task, laboriously *-j
and without zest, little of value can come of it. It is not /
good as a training experience; it will not lead to the desired/
recreational habits.

A thing that is to function as a leisure occupation must be
got as a leisure occupation. When this is the dominant pur-
"pose of learning a foreign language it seems certain that
the learning should be of the play or interest-driven type.
The teacher's business will be to provide favorable condi-
tions, to lead, to stimulate, to encourage, to supply the
contagions of enthusiasm. On the side of actual teaching,
the teacher must give the pupils a start in vocabulary, pro-


nunciation, fundamental grammatical forms, etc.; but the
novelty of beginning a new language, if the teacher is com-
petent in finding the springs of pupil-interest, fills this ini-
tial learning with the play-spirit. The Jj^tart having been
made, then thejeas teaching the better just as upon the
play-field, the less play-supervision the better. Since the
end is reading and not speech or writing, the pupils' ex-
perience will be mainly reading at the dictates of inter-
est. The teacher will see that the necessary abundance of
attractive readings are at hand, and so well graded that
pupils can mainly be emancipated from grammars and dic-
tionaries, and learn to read by reading.

When the training is mainly through an abundance of
easy and interesting reading, the pedagogy relates mainly
to leadership and control of motives. There is no longer
justification for that perverse practice on the part of lan-
guage teachers of pouncing upon the hard spots, the un-
familiar words, the difficult and irregular grammatical
forms and relationships; and thus demanding explanations
of just the things which the pupil has not got; ought not
to have got at his stage of learning; and ought not to be
required to explain.

We find here another example of the fallacy that a thing
must be fully known in order to be known at all. As a
matter of fact, little children listen to the speech of their
parents and understand the general drift of thought with-
out fully understanding the meaning of every word; and
without being able to explain any of tjfee grammar. As they
grow older and have fuller ^experience both with things
and language, the difficulties disappear without thought or
effort. In the same way, one canread the easy literature
of a foreign language, and move in the full current of
the story without knowing the meaning of all words met
with, and with little knowledge of the grammar. Let this


experience continue, week after week, month after month,
and year after year, and the meaning of the unfamiliar
words will gradually unfold without effort.

The present technique of education is largely an elabo-
rate technique of prematurity. It is attempt to teach pre-
maturely what later would develop naturally through the
normal processes of living.

This reading plan of recreational training does not re-
quire society to invest so much money and time in the
teaching of foreign languages as at present. Only those
who like the languages will take them. When a pupil's in-
terest so slackens that he will not under normal stimula-
tion continue his reading, clearly he should drop the study.
This will leave only those who are moving under their own
power. A great amount of teacher-effort will not then be
required. Classes may be large and need not meet fre-
quently; or if small may have pupil-leaders. And there is
the saving of most of the energy now given to grammar
and composition and vexation of spirit.

Let these conditions be brought about, and it is the pre-
diction of the writer that there will be a considerable pro-
portion of our population who will take advantage of this
recreational opportunity, and effectively go through with
it; and who will reap the good harvest that must come
from such non-sensuous type of recreational experience.

The arguments for this type of leisure occupation are
not strong until we become a reading people, and read our
own rich English literature. This is the largest of the world's
literatures. It is the most diversified of all, owing to the
Anglo-Saxon dispersion. It is the most cosmopolitan. It
alone will de-provincialize one. It contains most of the
best of all literatures ancient and modern in good transla-
tion. Within itself, it employs many media of expression.
It is a thing of infinite moods. Compare the military-band


style of Kipling with the symphony orchestra style of
Shakespeare, the "big bow-wow style" of Scott, as he
himself termed it, with the "fine cameo style" of Jane Aus-
ten. Let one note the acid of Dean Swift, the geniality of
Chaucer or Charles Lamb, the thunders of Carlyle, the
varied music of Tennyson and Byron and Milton, the virile
grace of Stevenson and Joseph Conrad, and the varying
moods of Uncle Remus and Mark Twain and O. Henry.
Let one note the diversified wealth of lyric, epic, idyl,
drama, novel, essay, humor, oration, and religious or phil-
osophical meditation. Let one then look into the diversi-
fied media and moods provided in translations: the English
Bible, Homer, Virgil, Plato, Cervantes, Dante, Dumas,
Balzac, Tolstoy, Om*r Khayyam, Bjornsen, Ibsen, Freitag,
Maeterlinck, and Tagore.

There are moods and media enough in the literature of
the English tongue to satisfy the present recreational lit-
erary cravings of most of our population most even of
those who go through the high schools. In large measure
it is now unutilized opportunity. We believe that men and
women should be trained for foreign-language recreational
reading if they will actually take sufficient advantage of
their opportunities; but it is absurd beyond expression to
train them for any such opportunities when they do not
even take advantage of the infinitely rich and diversified
literature of their own tongue. Beyond the conventional
two or three books of each, few people, even those who have
gone through high school and college, have read Scott,
Stevenson, or Conrad; or in translation, Bjornsen, Tol-
stoy, Balzac, or Ibsen. Much less do those same high-school
and college individuals who have had to take foreign lan-
guages for some undefined purpose, use them for recrea-
tional reading.

Suppose a foreign language is to be offered in high schools


for leisure reading, which is to be chosen? Quite evi-
dently it is the one which contains the largest and best lit-
erature. In order to ascertain this the writer took the more
than seven hundred volumes of "Everyman's Library"
which aims to bring together the best of all of the world's
literatures in English translation. Since it is a commercial
enterprise, producing books at low price which will appeal
to the reading tastes of the population in general, its se-
lections ought to reveal the literatures which have the
largest number of books of general appeal. Omitting those
of English-speaking peoples, the number of volumes from
each of the world's most important literatures are shown
in the accompanying table:

French ^. 52

Greek i 23

Russian and Polish 14

Latin 11

German 11

Scandinavian 10

Italian 8

Oriental nations 5

Spanish 3

Other book-lists afford confirmation of these figures.
Among modern literatures, there can be no doubt that the
literature of France stands head and shoulders over every
other literature except the English. If only one language
is to be studied for the purpose here discussed, it should
doubtless be French.

If one wants a second language for this purpose it looks
as though it might as well be Greek, Russian, Scandinavian,
German or Italian. It is unfortunate that this purpose does
not point more clearly to Spanish. This justification is
really needed to support other valid reasons for studying
Spanish, which in themselves, without this one, are scarcely
sufficient, except in special instances.


Foreign languages needed for proficiency in English

Few urge modern languages as aids to training in Eng-
lish. There is, however, a common presumption among
teachers that the large place accorded Latin is justified
on this basis. But the scientific curriculum-discoverer
cannot proceed upon ill-defined presumptions. He must
know with definiteness and particularity just what the
serious deficiencies in our use of English are that are de-
monstrably due to inability to read, translate, and explain
the grammar of Latin; and which have no other sufficient

Let us locate these if they exist, by a method of elimina-
tion. In the first place in the English training the most
fundamental things to be developed are: genuine desire to
use good English, right valuations or appreciations of good
English, and habits of watchfulness against errors of all
kinds. These attitudes obviously result mainly from social
stimulations and contagions. They are developed mainly
by living within a language atmosphere in which good Eng-
lish is spoken and read and valued. Language valuations
are almost wholly social matters, obtained from one's asso-
ciates chiefly through unconscious imitation. Latin has
little or nothing to do with the matter.

English training further aims at the development of the
habits, skills, and technical knowledge involved in pro-
nunciation, choice of words, construction of sentences, use
of English inflections and concord, construction of the
larger forms of discourse, oral and written presentation of
thought, reading, spelling, and handwriting. If one has
right valuations, and can do all of these things well, he
will have a pretty secure control over his English. In each
of the things, deficiencies are common. But examine them
one by one, and in most cases there is not even a remote


probability that the deficiencies are due to inability to read
and explain Latin.

Latin has a slight value for spelling; though on the whole
it is the Saxon words that give most trouble; and if one
cannot remember the English spelling, how can he with
greater assurance remember the Latin?
j It is urged for sentence-construction and concord,
through aiding in one's knowledge of English grammar.
Doubtless it will help; but it is a tremendously expensive
way to get the little grammar really needed for correcting
some twenty-five kinds of English errors. Those whose
English is so seriously defective that they need Latin for
the purpose generally do not get it; and those who get it
generally grow up in such a cultivated language-atmos-
phere that they do not greatly need it for the purpose men-

The argument simmers down to vocabulary-develop-
ment. One needs Latin, French, and Anglo-Saxon for
the etymology of the five thousand words that one uses;
and for the fifteen thousand that one reads. The presump-
tions are two: (1) the etymology gives understanding of
meanings; (2) one should learn the languages from which
English comes to understand the etymology. There is
some truth in both; and more error.

One must note the psychology of vocabulary-building.
The simplest and usual condition of vocabulary-learning
is where one meets with some new thing, action, quality,
or relation; and at the same time gets the word that ex-
presses it. In the presence of any new aspect of reality one
is not easy in mind till one has the necessary word in terms
of which to think it. The presence of the reality calls for
the word. When brought together they associate so closely
as to fuse into a single conception. The basic condition of
vocabulary-building is contact with the realities. If one is


to have a wide and varied vocabulary then the first condi-
tion is that he come into vital contact with numerous
and varied aspects of reality; verbalizing his experience.
If, for example, one would require the vocabulary of the
motor-car limousine, chassis, carburetor, commutator,
differential, magneto, muffler, transmission, etc. let him
operate the car, repair it, make adjustments, consult hand-
books for the necessary information, talk over matters with
others, etc.; and the full vocabulary will grow up so easily
and naturally that one does not notice how or when he
acquired it. Make experience central and the vocabulary will
take care of itself. If one would acquire the vocabulary of a
farm, a steel-mill, a hospital, the game of golf, a science,
a religion, or anything else, material or immaterial, the
principle holds. Let one study Latin till he is gray, he
will find that for vocabulary-building it is a poor and pale
substitute for reality.

The older plan .was to use simple well-known English
words for explaining the meaning of the Latin vocabulary;
and then to use that Latin vocabulary to explain the mean-
ing of other English words. It was a matter of pouring
meanings from English into Latin, and then back again.
It was to use a small body of meanings got from a little
contact with reality to produce a large body of substantial
meanings without any further contacts with realities. It
reminds one of the street-fakir who from an ounce of soap
produces three barrels of foam. There is increased iri-
descence; and one is impressed; but no increase of sub-
stance. The schools of the past were places of words not
realities. It is not therefore surprising that this primitive
faith in verbal methods should linger.

And yet etymology has legitimate functions to perform.
Let us illustrate some of them. We have in English some
twenty or thirty commonly-used prefixes borrowed from


the Latin, such as bi-, circum-, contra-, semi-, post-, trans-,
uni-, etc. We have another twenty or thirty more or less
common prefixes imported from the Greek: anti-, mon-,
mono-, pan-, penta-, poly-, tri-, hemi-, iso-, etc. We have
also some sixty or eighty suffixes variously derived from
Latin, Greek, Old French, and Anglo-Saxon: -fy, -ed, -hood,
-tion, -don, -ise, -ize, -less, -ish, -ie, -kin, -ling, -ness, -able,
-ly, etc.

Now, it does not really matter from what languages these
have been imported. They are essential portions of the
English tongue. They have become completely natural-
ized and they are as much a portion of the living English
as its Saxon element. It is no more necessary to study the
Latin in order to get the significance of a hundred and
fifty English affixes than it is to study the ancient Aryan,
which preceded the Latin in order to understand the terms
which the Latin borrowed from it.

Given favorable conditions their mastery involves prac-
tically no problem. Bring the children into contact with
the actual realities in relation to which the prefixes and
suffixes have significance, call attention to this significance,
in so far as pupils need to be made conscious of it, and the
work is done without effort. For example, in the mathe-
matics let the children know that bi- means two, as they
come into contact with bi-nominals, bi-sections, etc.; that
tri- means three, as they come into contact with triangles,
tri-sections, tri-nominals, etc. Let children meet with semi-
weekly, semi-annual, semi-circle, etc., as verbalized reali-
ties, and it does not require a great deal of effort on the
part of teachers to make them conscious of the signifi-
cance of semi-. Let them come into contact with both
realities and diminutives like doggie, lambkin, duckling,
hillock, eaglet, etc., and the understanding is acquired
without thought or effort. This is but to apply the cen-


principle of reality-teaching rather than verbal-teach-
ing to the vocabulary-building.

The roots or stems of many English words have also
been imported and naturalized; as, for example, dico or
dicto in diction, dictionary, dictate, dictum, abdicate, contra-
dict, predict, edict, interdict, verdict, dictator, etc. Of these
root-terms there are several score in common use that prob-
ably should be generally known; and even a few hundred
that may be known with profit by those who would acquire
a finished knowledge and appreciation of English. Most of
the root-terms have been naturalized and are now as much
parts of the English as they ever were of the Anglo-Saxon,
Latin, or Greek. They are the common possessions of any
language that cares to adopt them. The meanings are
mainly read into the root-terms by associating them with
the realities to which they refer. These terms can be broken
out of their English matrix, the generalized meaning re-
vealed, and then used in the study of families of English
derivatives that employ the root-terms. One can thus study
the etymology of English without studying Latin, French,
or Anglo-Saxon. Most of us who have not studied Greek
appreciate the etymology of such words as psychology,
theology, pantheon, biography, biology, bibliography, phi-
losophy, phonograph, etc., about as completely as we appre-
ciate the words from the Latin which we have studied.
And we can use the roots borrowed from the Greek just as
efficiently in analyzing derivatives.

In general, it is not through etymological associations
that one acquires the meanings of words. Take, for ex-
ample, the derivatives serve, serf, servant, servitor, service,
servitude, serviceable, servile, subservient, etc. All come from
a single root. A dictionary knowledge of the meaning of
this root will not give one any inkling of the finer nuances
of meanings. The root-term, for example, does not reveal


the subtle differences of meaning in servant, serf, and ser-
vitor; or between service and servitude. One gets these deli-
cate but vital differences through contacts with the reali-
ties themselves, either immediate or imaginative. One who
reads and observes widely and accurately but who has
never noted the etymology of these words will acquire the
finer shades of meaning as completely as one who is familiar
with the etymology. And if he can get the subtler flavors
of words in this way, surely he can thus also get the crass
meanings of the root-terms.

A further question relates to the technical terminology
of specialists: biologists, physiologists, physicians, etc.
The basic thing needed for making them specialists is full,
varied and intimate contacts with the realities of their
specialized fields. At bottom they need to know things, not
words. But adequate knowledge of things involves the
use of words the improved vehicles of human thought.
But the reality-method of getting at the things makes the
language aspect easy. The presence of the thing calls for
the language necessary for thinking it. Let the young phy-
sician once learn, for example, that hosma means blood; and
then let his daily experiences involve such terms as hcema-
chrome, Twemabarometer, hamacytometer, hosmaphobus, hcsma-
tozoa, hemorrhage, hemoglobin, hemoperitoneum, hemophobia,
hemoscope, hemotropic, etc., he will very easily learn the
value and significance of hGema- as a root word for his tech-
nical field. Let him read Greek literature for twenty
years, and he can never thereby acquire any better under-
standing of this word. And he can learn his other techni-
cal terms in the same way. Rare terms he will have to look
up in a dictionary like ordinary people. There is always
a fringe of little-used words that require the use of the dic-

It must be kept in mind that we are here discussing but

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin BobbittThe curriculum → online text (page 20 of 22)